My birthday came and went unobtrusively. While my office manager knows when it is, the first time they posted it on the monthly office calendar, I asked that my privacy be respected and it never appeared again. It does on appear of my FB profile though much else about me does. A birthday is something that just happens, not something reflecting effort or interest on my part. My wife and kids conveyed their good wishes. We had a special dinner, waited the time to eat milchig, then had a slice of birthday cake. Cards from my wife, the state senator and the state representative. Nothing that needed to be unwrapped.
The only gift came from myself. I selected a suitable retirement date, one that I will not work past unless some extenuating circumstance requires me to stay on a short time later. A countdown timer has been set.
This date falls well beyond the departure date of our current President, far enough in the future to allow me to engage in a project or two that I would have liked to have done in my professional capacity but never did. But it is also near enough to view with realistic anticipation. Needless to say, the vagaries of my health and the fortunes or whims of my employer could hasten that date considerably but not extend it.
This seemed like the right time, I like my work. I like the people that I work with and am grateful to the organization for welcoming me into their whirl. So it is hardly an escape. Rather I view it as an opportunity to be selective about the things that I wish to pursue and to be with my wife enough to maximize companionship but not so much as to become a pest. The deadline also prods me to think beyond my next patient, the next lecture, the next exam, the next license renewal. Being the doctor can become too much of identity, too consuming. While I value the skill and experience that has been mine to acquire and hopefully transmit a portion of it to the next generation of physicians, it comes at the neglect of other efforts that also bring their measure of satisfaction. What will I do when I no longer have to show up at work? Hard to say. I toured one of the big outlet centers yesterday, looking at the nice designer clothing and business cases that I had no reason to consider buying. I paid $11 for a fishing license. I still have two harmonicas that I need to learn how to play. And the medical equivalent of Uncle Tom's Cabin, the tome that brings reform to a professional system that could use some revision still has not been written.
Definitely a good gift, one that brings me purpose.